Feature Comparisons

Aptana RadRails just shipped their 1.0 release. Congratulations!

One thing that spoiled things a bit for me is the
Feature Comparison matrix they posted on their website. Along with the predictable green column for RadRails, they have red X's next to a lot of features in the NetBeans column. Features that definitely are there in NetBeans (and in some cases I would argue more so than in Aptana).

If you're going to post a feature comparison I think it's a bit irresponsible to do so without actually checking what the competition offers. NetBeans is free (and no registration is even required), so it's easy to download to check, and if you don't even want to do that, just google "NetBeans Ruby" which will point right to our Wiki which has extensive feature lists listed right on the front page.

(Update: Their feature matrix has been updated, and now recognizes that NetBeans does in fact offer RHTML editing, YAML editing, and XML editing.) There are however a number of errors remaining. Here are some of them.

  • Yes, we have a JSON editor (and ours is free)
  • Yes, we also have TextMate templates (templates for Ruby,
  • Yes, we have Extract Method (Details)
  • Yes, we have Extract Constant (and we have Extract Variable and Extract Field as well, plus a number of other refactorings tied to the caret, listed in the RubyHints wiki page.) (Details)
  • Yes, we have RHTML code completion. (Details)
  • (This isn't really for the feature comparison since we don't ship it by default, but a regular expression tester is available for NetBeans as well - see this video for a tour.)

A green checkmark versus a red x seems a bit simplistic; not all feature implementations are equal. For code completion for example, there are factors such as how complete it is, how good the documentation markup is, parameter tooltips, whether completion helps you with hash keys, whether you get active record database field completion, and so on.

I'll forward this to their feedback alias so hopefully the page can be corrected. I'm trying to make the point to anyone else out there who is planning to make a competitive matrix: If you haven't actually checked, use a question mark rather than a red x for features from the competition.

Well, with that out of the way I don't want to rain on their parade; it's great that we have competition in the Ruby and Rails toolspace, and a 1.0 is a big accomplishment. Congratulations!


Ah, so refactoring did make 6.0. I must admit that I haven't actually used both RadRails or Netbeans for a long time... sadly I have no time for RoR development.

Great to see that you address this on your blog.

Also I found the link to the nightly build page http://bits.netbeans.org/download/trunk/nightly/latest/ where I can check out the 6.1 features. No need to respond to my email in case you still were planning to.

All though I have yet to find an equivalent of this http://deadlock.netbeans.org/hudson/job/ruby/rssChangelog?flavor=rss20

Posted by Jaap on March 13, 2008 at 03:00 AM PDT #

My biggest complaint is listing the number of 'features' that Netbeans lacked which it could never have like:

\* Eclipse Compatible - I'm guessing they mean it doesn't run in Eclipse
\* Mylyn Integration - Only place I've seen Mylyn is Eclipse ... hmmm

I just find this irresponsible marketing & is the kind that would put me off a product.

Posted by Andy Yates on March 13, 2008 at 03:21 AM PDT #

Yeah, funny that one of the features isn't "NetBeans Compatible"

Posted by Kerr on March 13, 2008 at 03:42 AM PDT #

Tor, good post. Will the fact that Python is coming to NetBeans mean you'll be doing that and won't have time to work on more Ruby/Rails support? I guess you haven't because you've been working on the Javascript stuff? Just hate to think this wonderful Ruby support will dwindle because you'll be working on other language implementations.

Posted by Chess on March 13, 2008 at 04:04 AM PDT #

Hi Tor,

I actually warned them quite soon about that wrong feature matrix:
Cool to see they changed it a bit.

Still, while Netbeans is killer in theory, I can barely use due to a performance issue (but I'm last using Java6 on a dual core with Ubuntu), see this bug:

I might try to give again a try to the probe the Sun guy made if I get time to help (I don't unfortunately). But seriously, I guess I'm not alone getting that bug, that's a real blocker lasting for months.

Still, disabling automatic autocompletion makes it at least usable. But frankly without autocompletion it's hard to stick with Netbeans then, no matter how much feature you have in theory.

Hope Sun does something about it. Not bashing too much because Sun support to JRuby is just wonderful and I don't want to bash for a bug in an other free tool. Just hope fixing that also helps out Sun image, at least for the lots of folk I think see the same issue and give up at first try. I also think it's sad to see you made great efforts on Ruby features but lots of folk would not be able to use it.


Raphaël Valyi.

Posted by Raphaël Valyi on March 13, 2008 at 04:05 AM PDT #

All publicity is good publicity

Posted by guest on March 13, 2008 at 08:28 PM PDT #

That Aptana RadRails / NetBeans comparison matrix has been updated again @ http://www.aptana.com/rails#features

Posted by Kevin Hakman on March 14, 2008 at 05:15 AM PDT #

Hi all,

just to comment on Netbeans issue for Mac and some Ubuntu users:

A JDK patch actually fixes it but nobodies seems to understand why by now (it was supposed to help logging things but actually fixes it). It's simple to apply, so anybody having cursor disappearing in Netbeans 6, not only with Ruby, but also with java editing might try that.


Posted by guest on March 15, 2008 at 12:57 AM PDT #

Hi Tor! I've tested Aptana RadRails, and found only few things that Netbeans misses, all other things are done much better in Netbeans then in RadRails
some of the missing things are:
- RI (very usefull - when you type say 'find' it shows all classes, that have this method, so you can click on any to view)
- class hierarchy

but sure that Netbeans is so much better even without this features.

Posted by ruby.freeman on March 21, 2008 at 02:25 PM PDT #

One of the feature I'm still missing is the auto-completion in console.

It's very helpful to have instant feedback by using console when I develop.

Posted by deman on March 24, 2008 at 02:43 PM PDT #

Hi everybody,
thank you for your comments! Sorry about the delay - I've been swamped with the upcoming 6.1 code freeze this weekend (we enter high resistance mode), plus my kids have been on spring break...

Anyway, Ruby Freeman - you can jump to all methods in our Open Type dialog (similar to the RI view) - just type "#" for methods. For example, type "#to_s" to see all the to_s methods, or add class patterns on the left to filter down further. See http://blogs.sun.com/tor/entry/ruby_screenshot_of_the_week22 for more info on this.

Deman - auto-completion and console improvements are at the top of our priority list for the next release.

Posted by Tor Norbye on March 27, 2008 at 05:14 PM PDT #

Good day, Tor! Thanks a lot! How did I overlook that possibility? very useful!

Posted by ruby.freeman on March 27, 2008 at 06:04 PM PDT #

There is actually a plug-in (TailFileModule) to tail (log) files. You need to turn of colorize_logging in environment.rb to get rid of the colour tags though. Also, using Mongrel, running in development mode, content written to the development.log is automatically written to the output windows.

Still would be great to see logging (with colours) built in.

Also I would like to add that I find RadRails to have an incomprehensible options menu. There are like a gazillion options, and I could never find a damn thing. Aptana/RadRails is what you get when you only add 'features' over the years, and never make tradeoffs. I believe that is what creating interfaces is about, making tradeoffs en being able to justify them. Ruby was created on the same principle. KISS, please!

Posted by syrq on April 01, 2008 at 10:59 PM PDT #

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Tor Norbye


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